Grab your cap, your hat-based ship, and your sense of adventure for an incredible journey.
One of the first games I played was Super Mario Bros. 2, which set the course for two major parts of my gaming life: a love for Mario and the wackiness that video games can provide. With hindsight, my affinity for the obscure and zany can be traced back to those early days with Mario. That same feeling came to me while playing Super Mario Odyssey. While it's being called the next big 3D Mario game, this globetrotting adventure is fresher than that moniker insinuates and stands on its own when it comes to its sheer amount of genuinely surprising moments.
The fun kicks off with the narrative. Even with the same basic blueprint as every Mario game, this journey is still incredibly charming. Bowser decides to make Peach his bride, so as the hero, Mario chases after the baddie and his new group of henchmen named the Broodals. The villainous group is trying to prep for the wedding by gathering different pieces throughout various kingdoms. Each piece they collect brings them closer to being ready for the big day. Our pal Mario must defeat enemies and bosses, collect Power Moons, and put a stop to Bowser's shenanigans. While most of the story is told through simple text boxes, a number of cut scenes add something special to the experience.
Aside from the story bits, Super Mario Odyssey gets so much of its character from the different kingdoms and their inhabitants. One of my favorite places is Shiveria, located in the Snow Kingdom. While it’s a more compact area, this land offers up everything I value in winter levels. The inhabitants, the Shiverians, are a fun looking bunch, living in area complete with penguins and even a fun racing event. The best part of it all is how most of the enemies are all wearing Santa Claus hats.
Even outside of the unique and delightful regions, regular old gameplay progression in Odyssey is intriguing. Upon entering a new location, two main story objectives are necessary for completion. The Metro Kingdom is a good example, as you first destroy a boss before opening things up for you to explore. The second main objective is the one seen at this year's E3, where you are tasked with finding band members for a performance. By the time you're done with these objectives, odds are you uncovered the requisite amount of Power Moons needed to travel to a new place. Of course, lingering around past those objectives is filled with tons of fun secrets and content. Previously inaccessible areas are now open with brand new Moons to collect. When you’re ready for the next area, just hop in your ship, the hat-shaped Odyssey, and roll out. Returning to previous locations is a snap, as the Odyssey lets you easily go back and forth between the places you visited.
My best advice for Super Mario Odyssey is to take your time. While it might sound cliche, so much can be missed on your first time in a kingdom. I went through levels multiple times without noticing the finer details. This is particularly true of the Kingdom Coins, which are scattered everywhere across the map. These tokens, with sets exclusive to each kingdom, can be used to add stickers or furniture to the Odyssey as well as give Mario special costumes to wear. The placement of these coins and the Power Moons showcase the care Nintendo put into creating these worlds. If you see a landmark off in the distance or an area that looks ripe for exploration, you can almost guarantee something will be there for you to collect.
Super Mario Odyssey has a Breath of the Wild flavor mixed with a Delfino Plaza vibe. The Power Moons are littered everywhere, and you can pick some up for doing the most random tasks. There are objects to break, specific characters to find, and one-off tasks that play off a kingdom's specific themes. For example, in the Metro Kingdom, some challenges task you with participating in a jump rope challenge or jumping from skyscrapers with a scooter. My favorite moment had to be dressing as a clown for a New Donker who was having a bad day. The worlds are packed with many other fantastic instances, but I don't want to spoil the magic.
On top of all that, each Power Moon’s objective is varied. Some will have you taking on specific challenges in the overworld, while others require you to conquer dedicated levels that test various skills. A good chunk of those challenge levels come down to your platforming pedigree. Thankfully Mario has never controlled better. The focus here isn't on speed, as in some previous 3D Mario games, but instead it is all about momentum and how to capitalize on it. The game has you rolling, back-flipping, ground-pound jumping, throwing/holding, long jumping, and diving across the various environments. From a moveset standpoint, Mario can do so much by the time you just nail down the basics. Mastery of these abilities are required in capless Sunshine-esque challenges, Koopa Troopa races, and different overworld segments.
Past the movement and moves, the next big aspect comes from Mario’s new hat friend Cappy himself. This friendly citizen of the Cap Kingdom aids Mario in his quest of hunting down Bowser. Cappy adds additional platforming mechanics like cap hopping, which makes crossing massive gaps a lot easier. Of course, Cappy lets Mario capture allies, enemies, and objects, letting the hero inhabit these targets. Each captured character or item grants you powers and possibilities that are different from one to the next. A personal favorite of mine are the Gushen enemies from the Seaside Kingdom. With their powerful water spray, you can jet forward and upward to explore new heights. I was also surprised with how versatile the Uproots from the Wooded Kingdom were. Their stretchy legs help you to reach nuts that contain the Power Moons inside their shells.
All of these aspects together make Super Mario Odyssey quite a different beast. This installment in the franchise doesn't rely on familiar power-ups, and instead lets you find Mario's strength in new areas. The moves at your disposal and ways that you can interact with the environment make it one of the more brilliant first-party games I've played this year. The challenges of the various kingdoms embrace this mentality, leading to many awesome ideas. From flying as a Paragoomba through a thick mist to playing in a classic 2D 8-bit-styled landscape, every ability is created to give you something unique. In the grand scheme of things, very few of the level-based challenges are repeats, which only helps to add to the fun.
At this point, I’ve collected every Power Moon and Kingdom Coin in Odyssey. This entire process took me roughly 65 hours and I enjoyed every single second of it. Nary a slow moment pops up, especially since you can take a peek on the map anytime and decide on your destination. While I won't say the total number here, the claim of the amount being similar to that of Korok Seeds in Breath of the Wild is accurate, but the key difference is Power Moons are quite a bit more exciting to get a hold of than Korok Seeds. It's easy enough to find Power Moons at first, but as you progress, they get very hard to seek out.
While on my adventure, I constantly felt the need to utilize Snapshot mode. Super Mario Odyssey has plenty of moments worthy of capturing for your Switch’s Photo Album. Snapshot mode has numerous options, as you can twist the camera the full 360 degrees as well as position it in any way you like. The variety of filters and options for creating a PC or phone wallpaper are absolutely wonderful. With the right costumes and circumstances, incredible and dear images can be crafted. I look forward to seeing what people can do with these tools.
Graphically, Super Mario Odyssey is one heck of a game. It's a fantastic mix of traditional Super Mario elements scattered about brand-new worlds. The usual trappings of Koopa Troopas and Cheep Cheeps are present, but they get combined with entirely new creatures. The local inhabitants make the worlds feel more alive, adding to the atmosphere in a big way. The worlds themselves are great looking as well with a highlight being the Lake Kingdom, which happens to be one of the smaller locations. It is focused on underwater segments, which are filled with beautifully colored walls everywhere.
As far as the soundtrack goes, Super Mario Odyssey has one of my favorite Super Mario soundtracks ever. The soundtracks from the last couple Mario games felt a bit safe, even if I did appreciate their jazzy approach. Super Mario Odyssey has an incredible variety of tunes, ranging from the adventurous Fossil Falls to the incredibly upbeat New Donk City Daytime theme. The Shiveria's Town tune is a personal highlight, as it instanlty puts me into a good mood. That track is filled with bells, flutes, and violins, making for quite the classy arrangement. Once you complete the game's story, you can listen to any song you'd like while exploring the Kingdoms for more Power Moons, which is certainly a nice touch.
As someone who enjoys level-based Super Mario games more, I have to say that Odyssey blew me away. With the next Power Moon constantly within reach, the push forward is constant. Using Mario's expanded moveset, unique challenges are abound while trying to collect your next Power Moon. Even the lack of traditional power-ups doesn’t hurt the experience at all, as the team of Mario and Cappy offers all sorts of wonderful new abilities. The journey of this odyssey took me to all sorts of amazing worlds that I already find myself missing. Now that I've seen every bit of it, I look back on my adventure with a great smile. It is an incredible experience that I felt extremely compelled to complete, simply because I didn't want it all to end. Only the best games pull that feeling out of me, and this one did just that. Super Mario Odyssey is my favorite game on Switch by a long shot.